Today's Reading

CHAPTER ONE

It must have been just before nine o'clock in the evening that the man made his way past the Nihonbashi Bridge police station. The duty officer, who had stepped outside a little earlier to survey the street, saw him from behind.

Rather early to be quite so drunk, the officer thought. The man was visibly unsteady on his feet. Since the officer couldn't see his face, it was hard to guess how old he was, but his hairstyle and other indicators suggested late middle age. Neither fat nor thin, tall nor short, he was dressed very respectably. Even from a distance, you could tell that his dark brown suit was of high quality. In the end, the officer decided that there was no need to bother him.

The man was walking toward the bridge, lurching from side to side as he did so. The bridge was Nihonbashi Bridge, a historic landmark dating from 1907. The man started to make his way across the bridge and appeared to be heading for the Mitsukoshi department store on the far side.

The officer looked away and took stock of his immediate environs. He got the impression that while there were slightly fewer pedestrians around than before, the number of cars crisscrossing the tangle of roads in front of him was the same as ever. Even though there was a recession—no, probably because there was a recession—people still had to work. Despite the late hour, there were plenty of trucks and other commercial vehicles out on the road. The only change from the boom times was that the goods they were transporting were probably worth less. And this place was ground zero, the place from which all the hardworking merchants and businesspeople set off for the rest of Japan.

A group of around fifteen Chinese tourists were wandering across Nihonbashi Bridge, looking up at the expressway that ran at a right angle directly above it. It wasn't difficult for the officer to imagine the conversations they were having. They were most likely asking why on earth someone had gone and dumped something so brutish and ugly right on top of such a beautiful structure. Coming from such a vast country themselves, how could they possibly understand how, when Japan needed the expressways as part of hosting the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, it had built them above the capital's old canals and rivers because there was no spare land available?

The officer once again let his eyes wander. They came to a stop and focused on something. It was that man again. In the middle of Nihonbashi Bridge, there is an ornamental column with a pair of kirin, mythical Chinese beasts, on either side. The man was leaning against the parapet near the base of the column.

The officer watched him for a while. He didn't look as if he was planning to go anywhere. He was completely immobile.

"Oh, please! You're not seriously going to fall asleep there at this time of night—"

With a disapproving click of his tongue, the officer marched onto the bridge.

There was the usual stream of people crossing the bridge, none of whom paid the man any attention. Whether homeless or simply drunk, a person lying or sitting at the side of the road wasn't an unusual sight in central Tokyo.

The officer approached him. The man was immediately beneath one of the kirin statues, which, unlike the typical kirin, resemble dragons. His back was rounded as if bent forward in prayer.

"Excuse me, sir. What seems to be the problem?" The officer placed a hand on the man's shoulder. He didn't react. "Come on, rise and shine." The officer gave him a shake.

The man began to slither down the stone base. The officer grabbed hold of him and held him upright. What's with this guy? He must be smashed out of his mind. Then the officer sensed that something wasn't quite right. I can't smell any alcohol on him. He isn't drunk. Is he sick? No, that's not it either—

Struggling to hold him up, he looked at the man's chest.

There was something sticking out of it. And there was a blackish red stain on his shirtfront.

Oh no! I've got to call the station. He let the body drop and reached for his radio.
...

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Today's Reading

CHAPTER ONE

It must have been just before nine o'clock in the evening that the man made his way past the Nihonbashi Bridge police station. The duty officer, who had stepped outside a little earlier to survey the street, saw him from behind.

Rather early to be quite so drunk, the officer thought. The man was visibly unsteady on his feet. Since the officer couldn't see his face, it was hard to guess how old he was, but his hairstyle and other indicators suggested late middle age. Neither fat nor thin, tall nor short, he was dressed very respectably. Even from a distance, you could tell that his dark brown suit was of high quality. In the end, the officer decided that there was no need to bother him.

The man was walking toward the bridge, lurching from side to side as he did so. The bridge was Nihonbashi Bridge, a historic landmark dating from 1907. The man started to make his way across the bridge and appeared to be heading for the Mitsukoshi department store on the far side.

The officer looked away and took stock of his immediate environs. He got the impression that while there were slightly fewer pedestrians around than before, the number of cars crisscrossing the tangle of roads in front of him was the same as ever. Even though there was a recession—no, probably because there was a recession—people still had to work. Despite the late hour, there were plenty of trucks and other commercial vehicles out on the road. The only change from the boom times was that the goods they were transporting were probably worth less. And this place was ground zero, the place from which all the hardworking merchants and businesspeople set off for the rest of Japan.

A group of around fifteen Chinese tourists were wandering across Nihonbashi Bridge, looking up at the expressway that ran at a right angle directly above it. It wasn't difficult for the officer to imagine the conversations they were having. They were most likely asking why on earth someone had gone and dumped something so brutish and ugly right on top of such a beautiful structure. Coming from such a vast country themselves, how could they possibly understand how, when Japan needed the expressways as part of hosting the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, it had built them above the capital's old canals and rivers because there was no spare land available?

The officer once again let his eyes wander. They came to a stop and focused on something. It was that man again. In the middle of Nihonbashi Bridge, there is an ornamental column with a pair of kirin, mythical Chinese beasts, on either side. The man was leaning against the parapet near the base of the column.

The officer watched him for a while. He didn't look as if he was planning to go anywhere. He was completely immobile.

"Oh, please! You're not seriously going to fall asleep there at this time of night—"

With a disapproving click of his tongue, the officer marched onto the bridge.

There was the usual stream of people crossing the bridge, none of whom paid the man any attention. Whether homeless or simply drunk, a person lying or sitting at the side of the road wasn't an unusual sight in central Tokyo.

The officer approached him. The man was immediately beneath one of the kirin statues, which, unlike the typical kirin, resemble dragons. His back was rounded as if bent forward in prayer.

"Excuse me, sir. What seems to be the problem?" The officer placed a hand on the man's shoulder. He didn't react. "Come on, rise and shine." The officer gave him a shake.

The man began to slither down the stone base. The officer grabbed hold of him and held him upright. What's with this guy? He must be smashed out of his mind. Then the officer sensed that something wasn't quite right. I can't smell any alcohol on him. He isn't drunk. Is he sick? No, that's not it either—

Struggling to hold him up, he looked at the man's chest.

There was something sticking out of it. And there was a blackish red stain on his shirtfront.

Oh no! I've got to call the station. He let the body drop and reached for his radio.
...

Join the Library's Online Book Clubs and start receiving chapters from popular books in your daily email. Every day, Monday through Friday, we'll send you a portion of a book that takes only five minutes to read. Each Monday we begin a new book and by Friday you will have the chance to read 2 or 3 chapters, enough to know if it's a book you want to finish. You can read a wide variety of books including fiction, nonfiction, romance, business, teen and mystery books. Just give us your email address and five minutes a day, and we'll give you an exciting world of reading.

What our readers think...